The men’s Hula Hoops National Cup quarter-finals took place this weekend and they certainly lived up to all expectations with some epic battles in store around the country.
Garvey’s Tralee Warriors pulled it out of the fire against UCC Demons in Kerry on Sunday afternoon as they came back from a 16-point deficit at halftime to win out by six in the end. Indeed, it was a comeback for the ages as, down by 42-57 midway through the third quarter, it looked like Demons were headed back to another Cup semi-final.
Tralee talisman Paul Dick stepped up though, and with two huge three-pointers off the bench from Fergal O’Sullivan, the gap began to narrow. Keith Jumper and Eoin Quigley added points from the free-throw line and suddenly, the margin was down to four points (60-64) going into the last. A huge fourth quarter followed, with the sides neck-in-neck as Demons’ Brandon Watts, Girts Lazdans and Colin O’Reilly matched the hosts score for score.
Tralee had the final say though, with Dusan Bogdanovic and Jordan Evans getting the crucial final three scores to win 85-79 in the end and book a place against Pyrobel Killester in the semi-final.
Speaking afterwards, Tralee boss, Pat Price stated: “I’m so happy for the fellas. They just kept their heads down and worked very hard in the second half. We know we weren’t playing to our potential and Demons were punishing us for every mistake. Defensively, we made critical stops in the fourth and our depth paid off tonight.”
Elsewhere, two big Dublin derbies saw UCD Marian and Pyrobel Killester come out on top, as they ran out winners over DCU Saints and Griffith College Swords Thunder respectively. Marian stormed into a dominant 47-28 point lead at half time and didn’t look back from there, holding out to win 83-61.
Killester were also dominant over in Swords, easing into a 33-57 point lead at half time, a cushion that helped them see home a 67-90 point win in the end. Men’s Super League leaders Belfast Star are also into the semi-finals after a hard-fought win against Keane’s SuperValu Killorglin. Mike Davis was the top scorer for Star, as a huge third quarter from the hosts helped them home to a 91-78 point win in the end.
Over in the Hula Hoops Presidents Cup meanwhile, reigning Presidents Cup champions, Tradehouse Central Ballincollig won out their big showdown with DBS Éanna in Dublin on Sunday afternoon, 73-87. A stunning display from Andre Nation was the talk of Oblate Hall on the day, as he finished out with 32 points, but had a superb supporting cast in Ian McLoughlin and Ciaran O’Sullivan.
Speaking afterwards, head coach Kieran O’Sullivan was thrilled to get the defence of their Cup title off to such a good start: "I can’t stop smiling – what a performance. We had a good enough start, Eanna are a former Super League team, we have great respect for them but today was our day. Andre Nation proved what a player he is, we had great leadership from Ian McLoughlin, Ciaran O’Sullivan and Conor Murray, everybody to a man – I’m just really, really proud. We didn’t dream we’d be going back to another Cup semi-final – I’m absolutely delighted."
Elsewhere, Limerick Celtics were on hand to cause the big upset on Saturday evening as they won out in style in an overtime showdown with Scotts Lakers St Paul’s Killarney in Kerry. With nothing separating the sides at the end of regulation (70-70), Celtics’ stepped up through American Turrell Morris (who finished the game on 39 points) and Alvaro Martinez to win out 81-83.
Speaking afterwards, Celtics’ head coach Tony Hehir stated: “We are absolutely delighted to get the overtime win in Killarney and advance to the semi-final round. The entire squad of players did a super job on both ends of the court in the first two quarters, but we lost our way in the third. We dug deep in the fourth and Turrell and Fabio hit some big shots to seal a super win in overtime.”
IT Carlow Basketball and a depleted LYIT Donegal team went head-to-head in the Barrow Centre, with Carlow taking the honours in emphatic fashion, winning out 108-62. Top scoring from Kevin Donohoe and James Butler was the difference for Carlow on the day, while the final quarter-final between Bad Bobs Tolka Rovers and Ulster University Elks is currently ongoing.
In the Women’s Super League meanwhile, DCU Mercy had 20 points to spare over old rivals, Ambassador UCC Glanmire on Sunday, winning out 83-63. The two sides will face each other yet again though in Dublin next weekend in the Hula Hoops Cup quarter-finals. Courtyard Liffey Celtics remained unbeaten this weekend as they ran out 62-73 point winners over IT Carlow Basketball, while NUIG Mystics almost had their first win on the board today, but Singleton SuperValu Brunell managed to hold on to win by six in the end. The final Super League game of the weekend saw Fr Mathews and Maxol WIT Wildcats play out a ding dong battle in Cork, with Mathews just holding on to win by three, 77-74.
The Hula Hoops Women’s National Cup quarter-finals will take place next weekend, December 8/9th.